April 19, 2001

Unmarried at 40

Dear Wendy,

My youngest brother, Azer, is 40 years old and not married or dating anyone seriously. He is a kohen and will not marry a widow, divorcee or a convert, which excludes most of the eligible women I know in his age category. My Orthodox relatives in Toronto have in the past introduced him to appropriate women with varying degrees of success. I’m at a loss as to how I can help him, if at all.

Worried Sibling

Dear Worried Sibling,

Does it really come as a surprise to you — or to him — that the age-appropriate females who would meet his religious requirements have moved on with their lives? Before investing any more time, energy or postage trying to help your brother, consider the reality: he has had plenty of time to find the right person on his own. Is it possible that you are more intent on finding him a wife than he is? Or perhaps he is enjoying being taken care of by his older brother and prefers his current circumstance to having to grow up and contemplate taking care of somebody else?

Your brother is 40 years old. He is old enough to find a wife for himself if he is looking for one. Stop spinning your wheels. Or, if you really want to help, set him up with a good therapist, who may well be the right kind of woman for him just now.

Discussing the Shoah

Dear Wendy,

My 9-year-old just read a notable children’s book about concentration camps. He couldn’t put it down, but he was also quite upset by it. Am I doing him more of a favor by leveling with him about the Holocaust, or should I be reassuring him that such a thing could never happen again?


Dear Perplexed,

You can’t lie to your child. You can, however, edit the information you feed him. To say it can’t happen again is a lie; to reassure your child that Hitler’s Germany was a unique historic phenomenon is not. The real question, sadly, is larger than what happened during World War II: At some point we all have to grapple with the wrenching task of explaining to our children that, as Jews, we have been and may again be persecuted for our religious beliefs. And imparting a sense of history, and our unique place in it as Jews, is part of your parental responsibility.

Only you know if your son is ready to hear the whole truth, but whatever you tell him now should prepare him for that eventual reality.

Employment Reference

Dear Wendy,

A colleague called to ask for a reference for an individual who worked for me for several years. I had let her go for having an interoffice affair with a married man. Moreover, there were rumors around the company that this was not the first time she had been involved with another employee. Should I include this information when giving her a reference?


Dear Ex-Boss,

It has been my experience that when one professional calls another for a reference, the kind of information he is looking for pertains to the skills required to meet the job description. Unless your colleague operates an escort service, I don’t see why the topic of sex or office affairs would come up.
Rumors are just that; they are not to be repeated, much less included as part of a reference.

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